Washington Prowler

Hillary Throws a Book

If it lands softly, she'll not be stopped. Plus: EMILY's shrinking wallet.

By 6.2.03

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A FOCUS GROUP TIE-IN
Sen. Hillary Clinton has been keeping a low profile over the past several weeks -- probably reading the book three other people wrote for her, and for which she is now preparing to embark on a national publicity tour.

It's probably a good thing that she bone up on the tome, since success in hawking the volume could mean getting her money's worth for all of the polling and focus grouping she has commissioned to coincide with the book's release and publicity campaign. According to a former staffer for Clinton's husband Bill, the senator is paying for some national polling that will gauge her political and personal popularity while she makes her national television appearances and speaks out about the book.

"It's all part of a summer-long decision-making process about whether she should make a run for the Democratic presidential nomination this time around," says the former Clinton staffer. "Bill really wants her to do it. She's not so sure."

The rumors of Mrs. Clinton's possibly entering the race are being taken seriously enough that some Democrats in New York were planting negative comments about her in the press, in an attempt to temper her national political aspirations. "She made a commitment to this party, to this state, to serve as Senator for at least six years," says a state party operative from upstate New York. "She and her people know full well what went into getting her the nomination. She should not back out on the promises that she -- and her husband -- made to us. They should focus on the state and their constituents."

Her lackadaisical constituent-related efforts aside, polling in Democratic circles still indicates she would be a top tier candidate if she entered the 2004 presidential race, and would be a formidable fundraiser. "You'd probably see one or two of the current candidates jump out of the competition if she jumped in," says a DNC staffer.

In fact, the seeming lack of enthusiasm for the current crop of candidates -- John Kerry and perhaps Dick Gephardt excepted -- even has Al Gore looking at poll numbers and wondering if maybe he shouldn't reconsider. "I think it has crossed his mind," says a former Gore staffer and current adviser. "But it may still be too late. Hillary is operating under a different set of rules."

Clinton is expected to make national TV appearances on all the major networks, the morning shows, and perhaps one or two late night shows, in hawking her book.

EMPTY BUNDLES
EMILY's List, the left-wing feminist underwriter of Democratic candidates, has seen a 30 percent decrease in its fundraising over the past year. In fact, coming out of its presidential candidate forum of May 20, it was surprised to see that the high-profile event had garnered it only about 75 percent of what it had expected to raise on the program.

"Everyone has been hit hard by the economy and the lack of a really strong candidate," says a DNC fundraiser. "Our people seem to be waiting for one of them the step forward, then you'll see the money start to flow."

The downturn in fundraising, has EMILY's List creating a coalition of like-minded lefty groups, which will meet in the next couple of weeks to begin organizing. Called the Campaign for America's Future, participants hope to shape it into something akin to the Democratic Leadership Council, perhaps a bit further to the left. No word on which groups have been invited.

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